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Modern geologists, when searching for new deposits, no longer focus only on physical research. Both UAVs and the use of digital technologies are being used. Recently, at a forum in Astana, Russian scientists shared how they managed to discover the largest gold-copper object in the world – the Malmyzh deposit? reports news agency.

During the 14th mining and geological forum MINEX Kazakhstan, held in Astana, the Institute of Geotechnologies LLC (IGT) group shared an overview of digitalization in geological exploration.

IGT Group Executive Director Dmitry Agapitov presented the results of which methods for discovering deposits have been the main ones in the world over the past 120 years, starting from 1900. As it turned out, back in 1946, academician Sergei Smirnov came to the conclusion that the fund of easily discovered deposits was practically exhausted and only difficult-to-discover ore bodies remained.

“It would seem that the collapse began in 1946. But nevertheless, what do we continue to live on? Almost 80 years have passed, but we are finding something, and we are finding it well. All this, of course, is connected with the further development of industry, technology, search technology capabilities and human resources. Of course, the search problems have become much more difficult because there are a number of uncertainties, and when they overlap each other, they begin to grow exponentially,” he shared his research.

The expert emphasized that geological exploration at all stages is associated with great risks, ranging from geological, ending with logistics, infrastructure, environmental, marketing issues, market situation and legal aspects.

“If there are rough spots in even one of the directions, they will jeopardize the very existence of the project. But, nevertheless, time passes, progress develops, we all learn, and it is clear that despite the existing risks, none of the companies ever wants to play blindly. Nobody wants to burn money into the atmosphere,” he emphasized.

And here an obvious trend stands out: the later the investor decides to enter the project, the higher the “cost” of the entrance ticket, the more expensive further work will be for him.

“Statistics show that over the past 25-30 years in geological exploration, juniors have begun to straighten their shoulders, and all the growth is based on their risks. Mainers try not to get their hands dirty with these basic risks and are ready to buy ready-made projects. But what is the advantage of juniors? We understand everything, they are mobile, they can quickly make decisions, they have a short financing leverage, but from the analysis that we comprehensively carried out on all global companies, one way or another, almost all diseases are common,” concluded Dmitry Agapitov.

Thus, most often, juniors always have inflated hopes, they rely on some abstract or not always accurate resource estimates, and often underestimate the importance of using archival materials.

“Well, for example, the Soviet school took almost 70 years to form, and almost 29 million storage units have been accumulated in Russian geological funds. In Kazakhstan the situation is also very similar. Another problem is the violation of staging. Everyone is trying to quickly skip the season in search intelligence – this is unforgivable. And most often, then you either have to correct mistakes,” he clarified.

In addition, risks often include insufficient qualifications of performers. Moreover, experts argue that the personnel problem concerns not only Russia and Kazakhstan, but has a global scale, especially in the field of geological exploration.

“And despite the fact that the labor market is very mobile, everyone is moving from one legal space to another, the problem still remains. We have worked with many of our colleagues from 10-12 countries, and everyone has a very similar situation. Another problem is sometimes the neglect of modern technologies. This concerns juniors, because they are trying to save money on something, and it all ends with the project losing its investment attractiveness, since no one can make a decision like that,” he concluded.


In addition to the computer, it is important to listen to your intuition

The geological targeting method can help in searching for deposits.

Deputy General Director for Science, Chief Geologist of the IGT Group

Andrey Chitalin explained that today geologists in their work analyze a large array of data before finding a deposit with the required reserves.  

“I will give an example of the predicted discovery of a large porphyry copper deposit “Malmyzh” in the Khabarovsk Territory, in which my colleagues and I were lucky enough to participate. A large US porphyry copper company came to Russia with the goal of finding a large deposit, and we were told that they needed a facility with copper reserves of at least two million tons, preferably with a secondary enrichment zone for open-pit mining, and preferably with gold,” he noted .

After extensive data analysis by specialists, at the desk targeting stage, 200 sites that met the criteria were selected.

“Then we discussed them and ranked them. And we settled on 40 sites that we decided to check in the field. Over the course of two field seasons, by helicopter, boat, on foot, and so on, we visited and assessed these targets. As a result, 5 best areas were selected for licensing, and the Malmyzh deposit was discovered in one of them, which is already being prepared for development; it now belongs to the Russian Copper Company. This is a world-class facility, and the reserves that are estimated there, I think they will be doubled, judging by our geological prerequisites. And we are happy to follow the development of this project,” emphasized Andrey Chitalin.

At the same time, researchers widely use UAV methods, express analysis methods, and create a multi-purpose GIS project into which a kind of “layer cake of information” is loaded. This data includes both geological information and all kinds of risks.

But in the end, it is not enough to rely only on computer data; both practical experience and work with various specialists who know the area well play a big role in this. Thus, while working at the field, there were experts who advised against further work. However, the project management decided to listen to another group of researchers. If they had not done this, the deposit may still not have been discovered to this day.

“It is important for investors not to skimp on geological brains, so that they work carefully at the forecast and assessment stages. All this will then pay off in savings during further prospecting and exploration work. And at the same time, in the 90s, a famous geologist lectured us and said that we should study the models very carefully, but when going to the site we should forget about them so that they do not cloud our brains,” he advised the forum participants.

Digitalization of geological information is underway in Kazakhstan

During the conference of the Kazakhstan Chamber of Mines “Increasing the attractiveness of the mining industry of Kazakhstan”, Chairman of the Board of National Geological Service JSC Erlan Galiev noted that since 2023, the digitization of primary geological data has been completed in our country.

“By the beginning of 2026, 100% digitalization will occur. The information will include not only reports, but also data on magnetic cards and cartridges. In terms of secondary geological reports, we want to upload 56 reports to the database this year. But this platform is being developed by NC “Kazakhstan Gharysh Sapary”, processes of internal migration from different platforms are currently underway, there are some IT details, they are currently in the process of work,” explained Erlan Galiev.

Once this work is completed, the information will be available to investors.

“Several banks in Kazakhstan are ready to provide an acquiring mechanism, and you will be able to order these reports directly from the database itself,” explained the head of the NGS.

However, representatives of private companies themselves still point out the imperfections of the system. Thus, according to a representative of Rio Tinto Exploration Kazakhstan, the approach of each regional representative office of the NHS is different.

Thus, the company needed to obtain information about a cartogram of subsoil exploration; the Almaty representative office informed them that they had been lost.

“Unfortunately, the archives there are in terrible condition. That is, we arrived, the archival data was just lying in bags, not organized. We did not see this when working in the fund of Karaganda and East Kazakhstan region,” noted a representative of a private company.

On this score, the head of the NHS emphasized that he was aware of this problem. Previously, the Republican Geological Fund was located in Almaty, but then this data was transported to Kokshetau when the Geology Committee was moved there.

“Then they moved from Kokshetau to Astana, first to one, then to another building. And in the process of moving from Almaty, a lot of geological information was simply put into some bags. Some left, some stayed. This was a very long time ago, but the fact is that in the center, in the north and in the east, with primary data, inventory and cataloging are more or less clear, in the south everything is much sadder,” explained Erlan Galiev.

He emphasized that with the process of digitizing primary information, specialists also carry out an inventory, which will not only ensure its safety, but will also allow investors to save valuable time when requesting the required information.